Many people recognize a worker by what clothes they wear. For example, a railroad engineer wears a distinct uniform, and nearly everyone knows them by the uniform they wear. The same can be said for monks and nuns; we wear a very distinct kind of clothing that identifies us as vowed religious. While not everyone knows what our clothes represent, many people recognize the monastic habit and are curious about the person wearing it.
The habit is intended to be a sign of simplicity. Many monks and nuns do not own secular clothing, and thus rely on the habit as their daily wear. For the dispersed monk or nun, the habit is optional, however many choose to wear it over secular clothing. For many it provides the same simplicity as the cloistered monk or nun. Those who wear the habit do not need to spend time picking out their clothes for the day, and likewise do not need to impress anyone with the holy clothing that they wear.
The habit is NOT intended to be worn as an item of social status or to attract attention to one’s self. Wearing a habit for these reasons demeans the nature of the cloth, and only serves to boost the ego of the person wearing it.
The habit IS meant to bring about humility in the person wearing it; the simplicity and unflattering nature of a monastic habit ought to bring a person down to earth and enforce the idea that the person wearing it belongs to their Creator and not to a social club or particular status of ego.
In closing, I would like to challenge any of you who wear the monastic habit to examine your intentions when it comes to wearing it. Do you seek the praise and curiosity of those around you, or do you seek to serve as a witness to the love of, and total belonging to your Creator?